The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steivfater

Puck Connolly never expected to be running the race, but her brother Gabe hasn't left her much choice. He's announced he's leaving the island, and taking with him an income, stability, and a person she loves. The only thing she can think to do is ask him to stay until after the race, and stubbornly announces she's riding. After their parents were killed by the capaill uisce (say "copple ooshka"), she wanted nothing to do with the monsterous creatures: half-horse, half-sea. She still doesn't, and plots to break tradition and ride her own mare Dove.

Sean Kendrick has horses in his blood, and the island too. There's nothing for it, but to ride. His capaill uisce Corr has been with him for four years, an unheard of amount of time for the restless breed who barrel out of the sea around this time of year. It's part of the island's tradition, culminating in the Scorpio Races on November 1st. Any man brave enough to have found himself a steed, and foolish enough to ride, joins the melee on the beach for a chance at the ultimate prize: a fat cash prize, and the honor of the island.

The two seem fated to meet as Puck knows nothing of the race, and Sean has won it these past four years. If anyone could convince her to ride a capaill uisce, it would be him, but in a straight up race, he loses a horse to the sea, and she comes out the victor. It seems decided: she will race Dove, and become the first woman to take part in this ancient race. Sean agrees to help her train, for without it she has no chance of winning. Every day they grow closer, as they race along on their respective steeds.

There are plenty of humbling moments when other riders are less fortunate, or don't practice enough caution. Casualties are commonplace in this race. No one would think of discontinuing the tradition however, the island relies on the business it brings in to survive. The riders, too, come from far and wide to test their mettle. Both Sean and Puck have a necessary reason driving their desire to win: Puck wants to pay off their house, and Sean wants to buy Corr from her true owner, his employer. Only one can emerge victorious.

Will Sean crush the competition as he has in years past? Will Puck overcome all the odds, and show the island something new? Beautifully written, I appreciated the gradual attachment that grows between these characters. So often in YA the protagonists fall instantly in love, and this was a breath of fresh air. The storyline is compelling, and the mythology behind it will draw fans of Celtic lore. Highly recommended.
"'It's easy to convince men to love you, Puck. All you have to do is be a mountain they have to climb or a poem they don't understand. Something that makes them feel strong or clever. It's why they love the ocean.'
I'm not sure that is why Sean Kendrick loves the ocean.
Peg continues, 'When you're too much like them, the mystery's gone. No point seeking the grail if it looks like your teacup.'
'I'm not trying to be sought.'
She purses her lips, 'All I'm saying is that you're asking them to treat you like a man. And I'm not sure either of you want that,'" (Steifvater pg. 253, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
Green Rider by Kristen Britain
Ash by Malinda Lo

Stiefvater, Maggie. (2011). The Scorpio Races. New York: Scholastic Press.